Stocks Opened Lower ahead of Fed Minutes

U.S. stocks opened slightly lower on Wednesday ahead of minutes of the latest Federal Open Market Committee meeting that could shed light on policy makers’ thinking. The Dow Jones Industrial Average lately lost 27.18 points, or 0.15%, to 17,660.64. The S&P 500 was off 5.12 points, or 0.25%, to 2,046.68. The Nasdaq Composite was down 20.75 points, or 0.44%, to 4,681.69.

Keystone XL pipeline backers came up one vote short in the Senate and vowed to try again in January, when they expect to have enough support to send a bill to President Barack Obama. The 59-41 vote yesterday to approve the pipeline fell below the 60 needed.

U.S. housing starts unexpectedly fell in October, but a jump in permits to near a 6-1/2-year high suggested the housing market was steadily regaining strength. Groundbreaking slipped 2.8 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual 1.009 million-unit pace, the Commerce Department said on Wednesday. September’s starts were revised up to a 1.038 million-unit rate.

Target Corp (TGT.N), the fourth-largest U.S. retailer, reported a better-than-expected quarterly profit as U.S. same-store increased for the first time in four quarters. U.S. same-store sales rose 1.2 percent, double the rate that analysts polled by Consensus Metrix had expected.The company now expects adjusted earnings of $3.15-$3.25 per share for the year ending January, compared with its previous forecast of $3.10-$3.30.

Staples Inc. on Wednesday said its fiscal third-quarter sales fell, as the office-supplies chain accelerates plans to close underperforming stores and spark sales growth online. For the quarter ended Nov. 1, Staples reported a profit of $216.8 million, or 34 cents a share, compared with a profit of $135.2 million, or 21 cents a share, a year earlier. Sales fell 2.5% to $5.96 billion.

Brent crude oil climbed above $79 a barrel on Wednesday on speculation OPEC may act to stabilise prices that have fallen by almost a third in five months when it meets next week. Brent was up 85 cents at $79.32 a barrel at 1350 GMT, after settling 84 cents lower in the previous session.

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